Moto coach Broxy swaps out his CRF450R for an Africa Twin and heads down to the deep south for the 2018 Dusty Butt.
Words and Pics: Peter ‘Broxy’ Broxholme
So what is the Dusty Butt? It’s what’s behind you, or perhaps will be behind you this time next year, if you like the look of what you are about to read.
My first real life introduction to this epic ride was exactly one year ago as I was fuelling my van in the small town of Lumsden.
With a low sound of rolling thunder, half a dozen bikes and their riders rolled into the small petrol station, all tinted with the same shade of light brown. While they showed the signs of weariness that you would expect from having already ridden around 700km of rocks and hills over the past 30 hours, there was also the unmistakable sparkle in their eyes that only comes from grown men who have been pandering to the man-child who hides just below the surface.
They joked about big slides and silly little mistakes.
I heard of things like “Slate steps” that sounded barely rideable.
These guys were just one of the many Dusty Butt groups who would pass through that petrol station that day, and little did I know that I would be in their boots for 2018, nor that they had only scratched the surface of what makes this ride so memorable. Let’s elaborate:
Fairlie – good start
Just reading the briefing package that Epic Events – the organisers of many an epic adventure ride – give you will add to your excitement. That’s even the case for those who have done it before, because no one really knows what you are in for. You are often well above the snow line, and while a fresh dusting of the white fluffy stuff might sound like fun, it could also make life interesting very quickly.
We actually pass through the very area where many people have had to be rescued from their 4WD when snowed in, which – while some of the passes have been improved to minimise the worst bog holes – is a good reason to be prepared and that adds to the adventure.
Some North Islanders ride their way down, extending their fun and helping the less experienced get warmed up. Then on arrival – after an entertaining briefing and buffet meal on the Thursday night – it’s all on with a very early start the next day.
We began with a decent river crossing right off the bat, for those of us who didn’t choose the easy option. Providing you survived that without drowning your bike, the next few hours were spent finding your feet.
Laugh till you drop
As the boys I met the year before had hinted, you do get to be a hooligan. It would be rude not to leave a few long, slide lines on the gravel for your mates to enjoy. But half the battle is not giving them too much entertainment, like I did at the first fuel stop when trying to get aboard my bike from the opposite side of what I was used to.
Andy Wiig’s quick wit saw him ask if I had been riding long after dropping my big bike in front of everybody, much to the boys’ enjoyment.
Soon after that came the section I had been gearing up for; the Awakino Challenge. It involved some long stretches of rocks that helped the pass live up to its name, with the satisfaction of conquering it doubled, thanks to the kind of views I am unlikely to forget.
Some light rain made the second day challenging in its own right, especially down those slate steps that the 2017 boys had mentioned, and over the pass that followed. The reward for this was just as satisfying, with eerie views over valleys of blackened trees and through the most incredible gravel road I have ever ridden.
Racing through the smooth and banked corners with beech trees whizzing past was something of a dream come true. And this was no short burst; the goodness just kept coming.
Meeting up with riders along the way showed that I wasn’t the only happy camper, right down to those riding two-up. No doubt the passengers had to walk some of the hardest sections, but then you never know; that extra traction might have come in handy.
Unfortunately, commitments back home meant I had to miss the Sunday ride through legendary sections like “The Serpentine”, but I wouldn’t be leaving before experiencing the solitude of the Old Woman and Old Man’s passes. You could be excused for thinking you were the only soul left on earth while riding these great expanses, or that you had been transported to a new planet, judging from the time-ravaged rock towers, which sprang up at every turn.
The whole experience is so far removed from everyday life, it’s no wonder people like Richie Ebbett called it their favourite ride and tried not to miss a year.
Make sure you are subscribed to the Epic Events newsletter for notice of when entries open for next year. With the Dusty Butt limited to 150 riders, you better be in quick for your taste of Middle Earth.